Monday, December 5, 2011

Misguided, shamefully deceptive push for embryo-destructive research collapses

A new Daily Caller story by Neil Munro provides a very good overview of the political debate over embryo-destructive research, including the "utter disgrace" (to use the words of Princeton's Robert George) of those who wildly overhyped the therapeutic potential, the increasingly-obvious failure of that research, and the triumph of ethical stem cell alternatives that have treated many thousands of patients. Here's how it begins:
The Democrats' decade-long strategy of hyping embryo stem cell research crashed into a hard fact on Nov.15. That's when Geron Corp., the world's leading embryo research company, announced it was closing down its much-touted stem cell program, despite the guarantee of more government aid from Democratic-affiliated sources.

The political battle waged over embryonic stem cell research burst onto the front pages in 2001, when many reporters and scientists began touting stem cells as medical miracles that would offer cures for Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's and other diseases.

From 2000 onwards, "Democrats and liberals were hyping the research absurdly," Princeton professor Robert George, a member of President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics, told The Daily Caller. "There was no real prospect of therapeutic uses of [Geron's] embryonic stem cells."

University of Pennsylvania bioethics professor Art Caplan [who supports embryo-destructive research] agreed. "Companies like Geron tried to attract investors by over promising."

Social conservatives and some liberals were appalled by the prospect of companies, such as Geron, manufacturing embryos so their parts could be sold to the highest bidder. Democrats, however, eagerly used the prospect of miracle cures to lure sick voters and retirees, flatter professionals and stigmatize conservatives as being anti-science.
Read the rest.

Just recently, Dr. Ian Wilmut, the scientist who famously cloned Dolly the sheep, suggested that new, better (and, I would add, ethical) stem cell approaches are making embryonic stem cells obsolete.

Despite all the clarifying developments of recent years, scientists at the University of Minnesota used worn-out scare tactics and misinformation last spring to argue that taxpayer funds should be available for human cloning for the purpose of embryo-destructive research. Because of a veto by Gov. Mark Dayton, a human cloning advocate, the University won that battle, for now.